‘Toni Erdmann’ a rich comedy of embarrassment

Although I’ve had my doubts about Halloween since I was a kid, it took Toni Erdmann to confirm what I disliked about disguises. As Winfried, the music teacher with peculiar ideas about reconnecting with corporate headhunter daughter Ines (Amour Fou‘s Sandra Hüller), Peter Simonischek acts with fake teeth and a horrible wig that makes himContinue reading “‘Toni Erdmann’ a rich comedy of embarrassment”

‘Cameraperson’ offers new ways of seeing

2016’s Acacdemy Award nominations for Best Documentary Feature were the best in many years, possibly the best in a quarter century. Cameraperson didn’t make the final cut, but won enough praise to justify the Criterion treatment. Kirsten Johnson’s montage of sequences from many lands adds up to a fugue of transnational suffering. Somebody’s oppressed orContinue reading “‘Cameraperson’ offers new ways of seeing”

‘Hacksaw Ridge’ offers more Mel Gibson death porn

Only a man who loathes homosexuals can get such a hard-on for beautiful young men in extremis. Add long hair soaked in blood, mouths open in a combination of pain and ecstasy that Teresa of Avila can understand, and skeptics frozen in truly-he-was-the-son-of-God epiphanies — presto, a Mel Gibson picture. A lethargic, lysergic, and literalContinue reading “‘Hacksaw Ridge’ offers more Mel Gibson death porn”

Best films of 2016 #1-5

We’ve reached the end. Older entries here. Click on the director’s name for links to the original reviews. 5. American Honey (Andrea Arnold) Named after a Lady Antebellum single to which I was indifferent seven years ago, Andrea Arnold’s first American film is stuffed with music, much of it blessed hip-hop like E-40’s “Choices (Yup),”Continue reading “Best films of 2016 #1-5”

‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ — the problem of Funny Meryl

This week I watched Postcards from the Edge for the first time since the mid nineties. In its original release, the studio promoted the Mike Nichols picture as a Funny Meryl Streep Movie, a chapter in her career that also produced She-Devil.

The best films of 2016 #5-8

8. Little Men (Ira Sachs) So immersive is a good friendship that its depths and contours aren’t obvious until its dissolution. Adolescent boys are less likely to plumb its depths. In Little Men, Jake and Tony’s friendship is borne of conflict: after Jake’s dad Brian (Greg Kinnear) inherits a Brooklyn apartment, he struggles with theContinue reading “The best films of 2016 #5-8”

The best films of 2016 #9-12

Older entries here and here. 12. No Home Movie (Chantal Ackerman) In No Home Movie, Chantal Akerman asks: who is more in plain sight than our mothers, their presences taken for granted during birthdays, anniversaries, or forced conversations? Natalia Akerman, a Polish Holocaust survivor, is shown quietly slipping away, her memory sharp but her graspContinue reading “The best films of 2016 #9-12”

The best films of 2016 #13-16

16. Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan) Manchester by the Sea is a rarity: an ebullient film about misery. Lonergan, one of Hollywood’s most prized script doctors and for whom grief is a muse, puts everything he has learned about building scenes since 2000’s You Can Count on Me. Minute to minute I didn’t knowContinue reading “The best films of 2016 #13-16”

The best films of 2016 #16-20

The expected caveats applied, 2016 was a marvelous year for me professionally and as a moviegoer. I realize I could have started this list of the twenty best (and runners-up) in February if not May when I have fully caught up, but I wanted to get this shit out of the way. Most of theContinue reading “The best films of 2016 #16-20”

‘Paterson’ a leisurely, warm tour of a poet’s mind

A poet of abrupt accelerations and fanciful asides, William Carlos Williams is the last artist I’d associate with Jim Jarmusch. This director, whose fascination with stasis has produced some of the most enervating films of the last thirty years, has released Paterson, its title a nod to the New Jersey writer and its protagonist aContinue reading “‘Paterson’ a leisurely, warm tour of a poet’s mind”

The worst movies of 2016

Soon I’ll mention my favorite films of 2016; I’m still catching up, but at some point I have to acknowledge I can’t catch every bumper (I’m glad I waited for The Other Side, though, and I watch Silence and rewatch 20th Century Women and Toni Erdmann this week). The following list of 2016’s biggest disappointmentsContinue reading “The worst movies of 2016”

‘Hidden Figures’ a showcase for strong cast

I had no idea NASA employed a group of college-educated black mathematicians at the peak of the early sixties space race, and Hidden Figures is more than delighted to explain it. This Hollywood-ized adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly’s book stars Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, and Octavia Spencer as the brightest of the lot. They’reContinue reading “‘Hidden Figures’ a showcase for strong cast”